Amid a global trade war, India will hold an informal ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a second time in just over a year, starting May 13, a source said.
The two-day mini-ministerial is aimed at reaffirming commitment to preserving a rule-based, multilateral trading system and will likely discuss key issues such as reforms at the Organization, special and differential treatment to developing countries, e-commerce and certain other topics relating to the Doha agenda.
The move comes at a critical time when growing unilateral protectionist policies by the United States and some others, and a trade war involving the world’s top two economies have put to test the multilateral trading system represented by WTO.
Citing soaring commercial tensions and tariffs, WTO this month trimmed its global trade growth projection for 2019 to the lowest level in three years. World merchandise trade growth will ease to 2.6 per cent this year and 3 per cent next year, after recording a 3 per cent rise in 2018, the WTO had said.
Separately, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), too, lowered its 2019 trade growth forecast last week by a sharp 60 basis points to 3.4 per cent, as against the actual rise of 3.8 per cent in 2018, citing the impact of the US-China trade war.
New Delhi had organised such a meet of select nations in March last year. This year’s meeting is expected to be attended by about 25 developing nations.
Speaking at last year’s informal ministerial, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu stressed India had been a votary of multilateral trading system.
“Let us be mindful that in the past when the key economies departed from multilateral obligations by taking recourse to exceptions for agriculture and textiles, it led to other members securing similar exceptions. This only eroded the system and diminished its credibility,” Prabhu had said.
The US has already slapped tariff on its imports of steel and aluminium and hinted at more such protectionist steps. Washington is negotiating a trade deal with China and has announced its withdrawal of export incentives on Indian exports worth an annual $5.6 billion.
Recently, it sought a review of the “developing country” status at the WTO, claiming several members — including China and India — that moved up fast on economic and social ladders since the formation of the multilateral body in 1995 were still enjoying special and preferential trade treatments by “self-designating” themselves as developing nations.
In a separate paper presented at WTO, India, China and some others, however, have rebutted the US claims, asserting that in various key indicators — ranging from per capita income and human development indices to agriculture — the gap between them and the rich nations is too stark to miss. —FE